After two previous fruitful meetings held at the World Bank in Washington in 2016 and in Montreal last year at the kind invitation of VIA Rail Canada, the third UIC Regional Assembly for North America was held in Washington on 12 June at the Federal Railroad Administration Headquarters. The day before, UIC discussed standards/International Railway Solutions (IRS), ERTMS, safety (including level crossings), asset management, as well as digital developments and cybersecurity during a session at the Federal Railroad Administration called “UIC day”, with the aim of sharing more information to FRA and guests on UIC activities and projects. The issues of high speed rail development and operations, sustainability, energy efficiency, education and training were also discussed during this fruitful session.
The UIC Regional meeting for North America was chaired on 12 June by Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and CEO, VIA Rail Canada, Chairman of the UIC North American Region, and was attended by around 20 people, representing UIC North American members as well as partner organisations such as the World Bank or transport regulation authorities such as the Agency for the Regulation of Rail Transport (ARTF) of Mexico.
The UIC North American region is currently bringing together the Association of American Railroads AAR, the national rail operator for intercity passenger service Amtrak, the California High-Speed Rail Authority CHSRA, the Federal Railroad Administration FRA, the Canadian national passenger rail service VIA Rail Canada and the Railway Association of Canada RAC. AAR was represented by Mike Rush, Senior Vice President, Safety and Operations, and Amtrak by Jeff Gerlach, Director of Infrastructure Planning. In addition to Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, VIA Rail Canada was represented by Pierre Le Fevre, Senior Advisor to the President & CEO of VIA Rail Canada and Robert St. John, Chief Asset Management Officer.
FRA was represented by Barbara Klein Barr, Director, International Programs at the FRA, and Robert Lauby, Associate Administrator & Chief Safety Officer. Martha Lawrence, Transport specialist at the World Bank, attended the meeting as an observer, as well as Benjamin Aleman Castilla, Chairman and Chief Executive, Jose Luis Mayen Martinez, Director of Special Projects and Estanislao Sandoval Bosch, Director General, Legal Affairs of the Mexico’s Regulatory for Rail Transport ARTF.
UIC was represented by Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General, Francis Bedel, Chief Digital Officer, Jean-Michel Evanghelou, Head of UIC Telecom & Signalling activities and Marie Plaud-Lombard, Director of Communications.
Robert Lauby, Associate Administrator & Chief Safety Officer of the Federal Railroad Administration FRA opened the meeting with welcoming remarks and gave the floor to Pierre Le Fevre, Senior Advisor to the President & CEO of VIA Rail Canada. Both presented the latest developments in the region, highlighting in particular rail investments, by underlining the need to eliminate silos between players, to have a broader view of stakeholders and to try to know why governments invest more in roads and don’t invest more in favour of rail. Peter Lauby said was one of the main challenges was Positive Train Control (PTC) as “Safety is a priority”. Pierre Le Fevre presented the passenger and freight point of view, with rail as a solution to pollution and congestion. Ten current projects focusing on travel time and frequency in the USA and Canada were also highlighted.
They concluded with the key trends: the UIC North American region is characterised by the revitalisation of passenger rail, growing freight activities and infrastructure improvements, the evolution of relationships between freight and owners and passenger operators towards maximising benefits through optimisation.
Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, Chairman of the UIC North American Region, said:
“UIC plays an essential role in gathering and disseminating information among the key players in the railway industry. Early on in my mandate as VIA Rail’s President and CEO I became the chairperson of the UIC’s North American Region, led by my strong belief that rail transport is the smart choice for the future. The railway has always been a means of connecting communities as well as bolstering economic success along its route in a safe, efficient and reliable way. Let’s continue this great tradition and ensure its strong future by working together to grow our businesses and our national economies. The rail industry is currently at a crossroads, or perhaps a better term would be at a “diamond”. Railways control the most valuable of transportation assets: rights of way. They are the passages through which goods and people flow to support the mobility essential to the growth and development of our countries. As such, these private assets have a public vocation as well as a private obligation to financial return. When our governments granted us these rights of way it was with the understanding that we would do our best to exploit them for the common good. We railroaders have a duty to all our stakeholders to ensure that rights of way are used to their full potential. This duty to serve shareholders and citizens can only be achieved through cooperation, interoperability and cohabitation. Our countries cannot afford to let rights of way remain underutilised. It’s bad business, it’s bad economics, and it’s bad stakeholder management.
I am greatly looking forward to exchanging ideas, technologies and innovations and forging new ties with all of you”.
He added that the Strategic Vision for North America, a document prepared by UIC for the meeting and grouping together priorities of Members as well as facts and figures, would be released in the coming weeks.
Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, mentioned the dynamism of the sector. He said: “We have to be modest and continue to share best practices. I’m particularly happy to feel that new actors could join our big family in the coming times. You all need standards, and I’m very pleased to inform you about the recent creation of the UIC Standardisation Unit”.
He presented Members with UIC’s global activities such as corridors, training, security, sustainability and invited them to provide UIC with their input. He also presented the DIGIM project and the key messages of the Global Signalling conference of Milan held this year were given by Jean-Michel Evanghelou. Taking into account the importance of research, which could bring coherence to UIC’s coordination in the region, he suggested that the next regional meeting next year should take place at TTCI Headquarters in Pueblo, Colorado. TTCI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads and a world-class transportation research and testing organisation, providing emerging technology solutions for the railway industry throughout North America and the world.
On the afternoon of 12 June, a digital session was organised to mainly discuss IoT, cybersecurity in protection of critical network operations for some of the largest governments, financial and critical infrastructure. Two proofs of concept, on digital level crossings and for sight impaired and disabled passengers in Ottawa station, were also presented. More information about this session will be published in a later issue of UIC eNews.